What does “dead” mean?

Should death be defined in strictly biological terms — as the body’s failure to maintain integrated functioning of respiration, blood circulation, and neurological activity? Should death be declared on the basis of severe neurological injury even when biological functions remain intact? Or is it essentially a social construct that should be defined in different ways?

❝ These are among the wide-ranging questions explored in a new special report, “Defining Death: Organ Transplantation and the Fifty-Year Legacy of the Harvard Report on Brain Death,”…The special report is a collaboration between The Hastings Center and the Center for Bioethics at Harvard Medical School.

Sometimes, these days, I think of death and dying. Some of us must. The old ones. I think of Dylan Thomas. I must needs think of science. Most of me pretty worn; but, I may provide a jot of knowledge simply for what I have experienced and survived.

Father Drives 20,000 Miles From Nanjing, China to Seattle to Drop His Daughter Off at College

❝ After 108 days on the road, globetrotting father-daughter pair Huang Haitao and Huang Xinyi have finally arrived at their final destination: orientation.

Back in May, the duo set out on the ultimate adventure, road-tripping from their home in Nanjing in Eastern China to Xinyi’s college of choice, Seattle University…

❝ The decision to drive (flying over the Atlantic) the 18,642 miles from their home to her college came after Haitao promised to personally take his daughter to school if she were accepted into an American university. According to the Yangtze Evening News, the pair traveled through 26 countries, making stops in Russia, Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece, Albania, Switzerland, Austria, and many other new destinations. Once they reached the U.K., they boarded a plane to the U.S., shipping their car by boat overseas, and eventually picking up the road trip again on American soil. They drove along the historic Route 66 to Los Angeles before heading north to Seattle…

❝ For Xinyi’s father, the road trip was an important experience to share with his daughter before sending her off into adulthood.

“After she goes to college, there won’t really be many opportunities in future for me to spend so much time with her,” Mashable translated from the Yangtze Evening News. “She’ll have her own life, so the least I can do is send her onto the next chapter of her life.”

My kind of dad.

Robot lexical aide counts the words a child is exposed to

starling-5

The more words a toddler is exposed to, the better are the chances he or she will have have social, emotional and intellectual success (in other words, a higher IQ). This process should start before the child can even talk back, according to research carried out over the last 30 years by human intelligence experts. These findings have inspired a Palo-Alto company called Versame to develop a new gadget to help parents maximize their little one’s lexical exposure.

Starling is the name of the design, which was conceived as a clip-on word-tracking unit with a level of cuteness appropriate for its expected market of children up to 4 years of age, and works in any language. It’s attached to clothing, and a set of attachment options adds flexibility to how it’s worn. When it is removed, it can be placed back on its charging dock – its creators say that the battery should be good for about 5 days before needing a recharge.

Parents set a word-count goal and a green/red light will let them know whether the youngster has uttered or heard the target number of words or not. Parents can press the Starling button any time to check on progress. For the sake of privacy, the unit does not record spoken words, only counts them.

A proprietary companion app (currently iOS only) allows parents to connect with the waterproof Starling device over Bluetooth LE, and analyse a child’s word exposure levels. Versame says that 10 minutes worth of conversation every day can make a positive difference to a child’s development, but for those rare occasions when parents simply can’t think of anything to say, the app can suggest age-appropriate lexical activities.

Currently fundraising on Indiegogo, shipping is estimated to start in April 2016. If I was ever interested in having children, grandchildren, I’d probably investigate further. I grew up before learning aids like this only existed inside the pages of AMAZING STORIES. But, what my parents accomplished between books, limited amounts of radio, more books and a neighborhood Carnegie library was pretty satisfying – for me.

The Pope thinks kids are wasting time online — he should think about why

Pope Francis has taken aim at today’s youth by urging them not to waste their time on “futile things” such as “chatting on the internet or with smartphones, watching TV soap operas”.

He argued that the “products of technological progress” are distracting attention away from what is important in life rather than improving us. But even as he made his comments, UK communications regulator Ofcom released its latest figures, giving the opposite message. It celebrated the rise of a “tech-savvy” generation born at the turn of the millennium and now able to navigate the digital world with ease.

So what’s it to be for youth and the internet? Time-wasting and futile? Or the first to benefit from the wonders of the digital age?

This debate has been raging since children first picked up comic books and went to Saturday morning cinema. The media, it has long been said, makes kids stupid, inattentive, violent, passive, disrespectful, grow up too early or stay irresponsible too long. Whatever it is that society worries about in relation to children and young people, it seems that we love to blame it on the latest and most visible technology. Anything rather than looking more closely at the society we have created for them to grow up in.

Fifteen years ago, when children were being criticised for watching too much television (remember those days?), I asked children to describe what happened on a good day when they got home from school and what happened on a boring day. From six year olds to seventeen year olds, the answers were the same: on a good day, they could go out and see their friends; on a boring day they were stuck at home watching television.

And why couldn’t they go out and see their friends every day? Far from reflecting the appeal of television, the answer lies in parental anxieties about children going out. As a 2013 report noted, children are far less able to move around independently than in the past. This is particularly true of primary school children, who are often no longer allowed to walk to school or play unsupervised as they once were. Their developing independence, their time to play, their opportunities to socialise are all vastly curtailed compared with the childhoods of previous generations.

And yet the number of children who have accidents on the road has fallen over the years and there has been little change to the rate of child abductions, which remain very rare.

There is little evidence that children are choosing to stay home with digital technology instead of going out. Indeed, it seems more likely that an increasingly anxious world – fuelled by moral panics about childhood – is making parents keep their kids at home and online. And then, to pile on the irony, the same society that produces, promotes and provides technologies for kids also blames them for spending time with them…

Sonia Livingstone asks useful questions. Questions – in my own experience – not asked often enough. Certainly not asked or answered in conversations with folks in charge of funds for education, funds for recreation, even those in charge of whether or not there will be funds for education or recreation.

Much less what comprises useful education and what roles recreation, sport, fitness and challenge should play in the lives of young people. What to do with communication and a view of the whole world?

What will your verse be?

I’ve spent most of my life living multiple directions at the same time.

I went from being a kid performing artist as a classical musician to teen jazz musician – while studying photography and literature.

I went from industrial engineering to a major in English literature – after switching to a 12-string guitar. And stopped racing cars, legally or otherwise, which included a very short stint driving for a bootlegger.

There’s more – especially political struggles over the last half-century or so. But, if you’re a regular visitor to this blog you’ll bump into those tales, the pleasure I experience from materialist philosophy and dialectics, science and society.

But, the arts in one form or another should be part of everyone’s life. Today’s technology brings ease and experiment into everyone’s life. Music, photography, writing, reading, experiencing all the wonder of human creativity and nature’s reach can be in the palm of your hand.

The shared experience of seeing a scientist in Alabama – or a technology and business journalist in San Francisco – become really skilled with the digital tools they have chosen to describe the beauty of existence makes me one of the happiest critters on Earth.

When a company chooses to sell their wares on the basis of this capability adds to that enjoyment.

Cornell Legacy Project shares advice from grayhead “experts”

…Eventually, most of us learn valuable lessons about how to conduct a successful and satisfying life. But for far too many people, the learning comes too late to help them avoid painful mistakes and decades of wasted time and effort.

In recent years, for example, many talented young people have denied their true passions, choosing instead to pursue careers that promise fast and big monetary gains. High rates of divorce speak to an impulsiveness to marry and a tenuous commitment to vows of “till death do us part.”

Parents undermine children’s self-confidence and self-esteem by punishing them physically or pushing them down paths, both academic and athletic, that they are ill equipped to follow. And myriad prescriptions for antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs reflect a widespread tendency to sweat the small stuff, a failure to recognize time-honored sources of happiness, and a reliance on material acquisitions that provide only temporary pleasure.

Enter an invaluable source of help, if anyone is willing to listen while there is still time to take corrective action. It is a new book called “30 Lessons for Living” that offers practical advice from more than 1,000 older Americans from different economic, educational and occupational strata who were interviewed as part of the ongoing Cornell Legacy Project.

Its author, Karl Pillemer, a professor of human development at the College of Human Ecology at Cornell and a gerontologist at the Weill Cornell Medical College, calls his subjects “the experts,” and their advice is based on what they did right and wrong in their long lives. Many of the interviews can be viewed here.

Continue reading